21st century technology meets ancient craftsmanship to prepare the Pope’s altar

The Catholic Church to unveil details of the altar, chair and lectern which will be used by Pope Benedict XVI when he celebrates Mass in Glasgow next month. The marble structures have been designed by Glasgow artist Niamh Quail with assiatance from the University of Strathclyde’s “Rapid Prototyping Unit”

Describing the commission, Niamh Quail said:

“From the time I was given the brief, I only had about six weeks to design the altar, the Pope’s chair and the lectern to show to the people at the Vatican. I couldn’t have done it without the people at Strathclyde University’s “Rapid Prototyping Unit”.

Of the design itself Niamh said:

“I was told to design a chair and that was about it! I wanted to keep it simple but also to have a Scottish and religious aspect to it as well.The design is Celtic, incorporating a cross, within each of the four arms are three interwoven leafs representing the Holy Trinity, with the entire design having no beginning nor end.”

She added;

“Normally I would have one-dimensional sketches but with the CAD (computer aided design) we were able to make 3D models of the chair, altar and lectern together. It was great to see them like that and we were even able to put a model of the Pope in there too.
When the Vatican saw the models and all the work that had gone into it they were really confident in what we were doing.”

Neil Reid, the stonemason from Reid Carrara Ltd who is building the altar said:

“It was a real privilege to be asked by the Church to do this job. I’m really flattered that after seeing my previous work they trusted me with such an important task. I’ve been making altars for churches for eighteen years now but this is the big one.

I’ve been working flat out to get it finished in time. I can picture the altar in my head already but I can’t wait to get it finished and see it being used by the Pope at Bellahouston.”

Fr. Andrew McKenzie, Director of liturgy for the Papal Mass said;

"Creating the Papal altar, lectern and chair has been a very enjoyable
process, greatly helped by the generosity and technical abilities of all
those involved."

He added;

"I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those who have contributed
to the creative, technical and production stages of the project. I am
certain that together we will be able to create a fitting environment in
which the Pope can celebrate Mass in Glasgow."


David Kerr
Scottish Catholic Media Office
0141 221 1168

Kat Ferguson
University of Strathclyde
0141 548 4123

Note to Editors:

You are invited to send a reporter/photographer/camera crew on Monday 23rd August to the locations below:

10.00 am
Neil Reid’s workshop, Causewayside Crescent, Glasgow, G32 8LJ
Available for interview will be Neil Reid, who will also be working on the pieces.

James Weir Building, University of Strathclyde, Montrose Street, Glasgow

Niamh Quail will be available for interview, as will members of the Rapid Prototyping Unit. There will also be opportunity to film the models made by the unit of the altar etc. (Event is in room M109 – ask at reception for Dave Cunningham: 0141 548 2411)